Posts Tagged ‘audubon greenwich’

Great Meadows Marsh, an IBA (Important Bird Area).

This morning, lured by the prospect of two possible nemesis lifers, Lapland Longspur and Northern Saw-whet Owl, I joined Eamon, Ryan, and some others on a trip to Stratford, CT lead by Brian O’Toole. The high was predicted to be in the mid-20s with winds less than 15 mph, which was quite a contrast from last week’s bad weather birding. We left the Audubon Center in Greenwich a bit after 9 am, and arrived at our first stop, Great Meadows Marsh, at 10.

We walked across railroad tracks and into the park, reaching the first boardwalk overlook in a couple minutes. This looked out over a section of marsh and appeared pretty barren. Soon, however, two Northern Harriers were spotted flying low over the tall grasses. One was a male, termed a “gray ghost” because of its light gray coloration (compared to the rust-colored female and juvenile). We soon found two Red-tailed Hawks watching the action from a tree, as well as another hawk of the same genus (buteo). Because of the habitat and time of year it was at first called a Rough-legged, an irruptive grassland hawk that breeds much farther north in the continent, but we soon realized it was actually an immature Red-shouldered Hawk, more uncommon in winter. Continuing down the trail, we ran into a group of American Tree Sparrows and another Harrier, as well as some Hooded Mergansers. A Snowy Owl had been reported not too many days before, but we were not lucky enough to run into it. On to the next spot!

A female Northern Harrier making a beeline for the other side of the marsh.

After stopping at a spot that had produced many birds the last time I was there (Jan ’09), but was lacking this time around, we headed to Long Beach, the other main attraction of Stratford birding. This was were I was hoping to find Lapland Longspur, a bird that had eluded me for several winters. Back at the marsh we ran into a man who said he had seen them earlier in the morning, further raising my hopes. After we parked in the parking lot, a quick scan of the Sound revealed not much more than a few Common Goldeneye and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers. Brian led us down the path toward a pair of cedars where that same man had apparently seen an Orange-crowned Warbler. As we walked, the wind picked up and got to a point that was almost comparable to that of last Sunday. The longspur had been seen around the parking lot, so it wasn’t looking too good for…

“What’s that?”

A few small birds appeared to our right, rummaging through the leaf litter on the beach.

“Longspur!” said Brian. (more…)


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The Area A gang (not including me).

I awoke at 6 am this morning to a pleasant surprise; the weather forecast had gone from snow until noon to snow until 7:30 am. This was very relieving because I, along with everyone else participating in the Greenwich Christmas Bird Count, was counting on the snow stopping in order to find good birds.

By the time we – Mike, Steve, Ken, and I (all Quaker Ridge hawkwatchers) – got started, at 9, we had abandoned early-morning owling and given up over an hour of daylight – hopefully the rest of the day would make up for that.

Our first stop was the Kensico Reservoir. We drove down a road lined with gorgeous towering conifers coated with snow – totally un-Westchester-like – and stopped where the conifers met some deciduous woods. There I played my screech-owl/chickadee recording, to great effect. At least a couple dozen Chickadees, Titmice, Blue Jays, and other birds came to investigate. After that stop we drove along the reservoir, scanning the water. Waterbirds were sparse, however; the only ones we found were Hooded Mergansers, Great Black-backed Gull, Mallards, and a Common Loon.

A low, very nice look at a pale redtail.

After the Reservoir we headed to our main birding location – the property of IBM. This consisted of a massive amount of acreage, and is home to many, many birds. It made me think how many rarities would be found there if entrance didn’t require special permission (which we had). First, we climbed to the highest point on the property, a north-facing (and quite windy) hill. Mike said that many years ago it had been used as a hawk watch, which wasn’t surprising as we saw Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and hundreds of Canada Geese in the 20 or so minutes we were there. Next, we continued to the upper field, which at first appeared barren. I played my recording and out popped an Eastern Towhee, fairly uncommon on the count, and, wait, what’s that? A thrush? In my haste to get to my binoculars, my iPhone (which had been connected to mini speakers) became disconnected and fell to the ground. Oh, it’s a Hermit Thrush. Wait, where’d my phone go?! I looked down and just saw snow… Luckily after a couple minutes of searching I was reunited with a wet, but working, iPhone. As we began to head back, I spotted a large corvid over the treeline. A large head, strong wingbeats…a Common Raven! It even gave a low croaakk for us to make sure we knew its identity. Moving on, we headed to a lower portion of shrubby field, which yielded many sparrows species last year. All we found were White-throated, Savannah, and Song Sparrows, however. After surveying a few more spots at IBM (with the highlight being a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with a brilliantly ruby crown), we left (around 1:30 pm).

Carolina Wren.

Business Park Drive was our next stop, and it was well worth it. In an area by a sizable brook, we found Hairy Woodpecker (finally!), Yellow-rumped Warbler, Belted Kingfisher, and more geese. We then took a walk around Wampus Brook Park in the hopes of finding a kinglet or Creeper. We did find Red-winged Blackbirds, American Tree Sparrow, and a Carolina Wren, but none of those. Interestingly, the weird hybrid geese that I had seen at the same spot in the spring were present among the Canadas.

A hybird goose, probably Canada x some domestic kind.

With the sun low in the sky, we headed for our last stop, Nichols Preserve, right on the very edge of our territory. On the way there someone commented on a low Red-tailed hawk on the side of the road. I looked at the hawk, and said “That’s not a redtail” (the chest was vertically streaked). We pulled a U-Turn and approached the hawk, which took off and showed a faintly banded tail and translucent primary patches – another Red-shouldered Hawk.

The Red-shouldered Hawk on the side of Riversville Rd.

Once at Nichols, the most productive spot was actually before the entrance (probably due to the presence of bird feeders). We picked up a few more species, including our much-wanted Brown CreeperFox Sparrow (4, actually, one which actually sang), House Finch, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Inside Nichols we got even more lucky – Eastern Bluebirds, Rusty Blackbird (a county bird for me), and Red-breasted Nuthatch were all new birds for the day, with only a half-hour of sunlight remaining. We then headed back to Audubon. At the end of the compilation, we had tallied 53 species for the day (2 more than last year), and Common Raven had been a count save (no one else saw one)! Because no one had bothered to go owling in the morning, we were missing Eastern Screech-Owl. People were planning to go out to find one, but I had to get home.

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Who needs hawks when you have mice?

Who needs hawks when you have mice?

Today was PSAT day, meaning we had no classes (besides the test). So, after finishing the PSAT, we all went home. Well…

I, seeing that there were NNW winds and partly cloudy skies, chose a different option. I’m glad I did.

There were lots of birds around at the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch in Greenwich, CT. Yellow-rumped Warblers were absolutely everywhere you looked. I couldn’t go one minute without hearing their characteristic “chup” note or seeing one fly into view. Canada Geese and Double-crested Cormorants were moving as well — over 900 geese and 100 cormorants flew over the watch. We noted a goose that looked noticeably smaller than the others, with a much quicker flap, but we couldn’t be sure it was a Cackling Goose.

The fourth goose from the right appeared smaller, witch quicker wingbeats. Terrible photo though.

The fourth goose from the right appeared smaller, with quicker wingbeats. Terrible photo to show that though.

Of course, there were hawks too. Almost all the expected species showed up (we saw TWELVE species of migrating raptors), including two Peregrine Falcons, one which came right over not too far above tree height.

Around noon, someone found a young mouse (edit: I’ve been told it’s a very young Deer Mouse White-footed Mouse — thanks Joe), and since the hawk show had temporarily slowed down, why not watch mice?



During this lull in the action, around 1pm, I decided to take a break from the hawks and go on a walk in the field to look for passerines (songbirds). It was quite a fruitful walk – White-crowned, Lincoln’s, Savannah, Swamp, Song, White-throated, and of course ubiquitous House Sparrows all turned up, as did a brilliantly yellow Palm Warbler.

As I was walking, I kept glimpsing more sparrows just around the corner, and I ended up in the orchard, far from the hawk watch. Suddenly, my phone started vibrating. When I saw the display read “Luke Tiller,” our hawk watcher, I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have wandered off so far.

“We just had two Mississippi Kites.”

Mississippi Kites?!?!?!?!?

“Are you serious??”


“Are they still there?!”

“They’re gone now, or they’re going to be gone.”

I sprinted all the way from the orchard to the hawk watch as fast as I could. (That’s one of the benefits of running the 400 meter dash, by the way.) Arriving out of breath (indoor track doesn’t start for a couple weeks ;)) , I ask where the birds are.

“It’s just gone into the sun.”

Great. The sun is just above the treeline.

“Oh wait it’s coming back!”

Sweeeeeeet! The bird came streaking back, just over the tops of the trees. I didn’t get killer looks; the bird was silhouetted (and no chance for a photo), but it was good enough.

What a day!

These guys were EVERYWHERE! Dozens and dozens and dozens...

These guys were EVERYWHERE! Dozens and dozens and dozens...

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